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First things first - several alert readers pointed out an error from yesterday’s post: although we might have to play a tough opponent in the two-leg Champions League play-in round, it won’t be Arsenal. Apparently, the "seeded" teams can’t play one another in the play-in round? I was unaware of that, and I think I saw the Arsenal’s Offside Blog mention the possibility that they might play us, but apparently that can’t happen. However, the point still stands: we may have to play a decent club at this stage (Udinese, Twente, Benfica), so qualification is definitely not a sure thing.

Moving along.  In the few months I’ve been writing, I’ve determined that there are a good number of readers who regularly submit comments on this site itself, or who communicate with me through e-mail or twitter.  While the overall level of football knowledge is impressive, I’ve started to realize that the background of our collective Bayern fan-hood is a general unknown - not only to me, but to everyone who comes here regularly, with respect to each other.  So, while I have you all in one place, I’d like to ask a question of those who have a few minutes to spare and don’t mind answering it.  The question is this:

How, when, and why did you become an FC Bayern fan?

If you feel like it, you can leave your answers in the comments, or e-mail them to me at bayern.offside@yahoo.com - if you do that, I will probably post them (maybe abridged or consolidated) in the comments section here anyway, so it might be easier to just post them.

You can be as brief or expansive as you like, and if the answer is “no particular reason, I always just liked the club” that’s fine too.  If you live in Munich or the surrounding environs, maybe it’s self-explanatory, but my impression is that this isn’t the case for most.  My only request is that you not include a lot of specific personal details such as your full name, the exact street or neighborhood where you live, etc.  And, of course, if you think this whole idea is stupid, that’s OK as well - just tune in tomorrow or Saturday and we’ll hopefully be talking about something better.

I’ll start with mine:

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I first took an interest in association football in 2003 or so, during my first year of law school.  Before that, I was a pretty typical American sports fan - NFL football, hockey, a bit of basketball.  I also played lacrosse in high school, but there’s no real outlet for watching that on a professional level.  But soccer-football never even crossed my mind, and to this day I still get annoyed thinking of some of the great stuff I missed in the decade or so before I woke up.

For reasons I can’t remember or explain, I started to vaguely pay attention to soccer (I’ll use that term for the remainder of the post, just to differentiate) and follow it casually between 2003 and 2006.  During that time, Bayern Munich was one of the clubs that I somewhat knew about and didn’t actively hate (I always hated Manchester United - still do, and used to hate Real Madrid - I’ve started to come around on them a bit).  So during this period, I was a casual soccer fan and not really a “fan” of Bayern, but they were a team that I at least took some interest in and didn’t actively dislike.

All of that back-story is somewhat fuzzy in my brain, but the time when I became a serious, dedicated soccer fan is perfectly etched in my memory: it was the knockout stage of the 2006 World Cup.  This was the last week in June and the first week in July.  During that same time frame, my rich Uncle took his family to Hawaii.  Since he lived pretty close to my office, my sister and I agreed to stay at his place and look after his dogs.  A friend of mine came to stay with us for a couple days, and he was a big soccer fan and convinced me to watch a bit of the World Cup.

My uncle’s basement had a 60-inch hi-def LCD TV.  This was in 2006, when such things were pretty rare.  I distinctly remember turning it on to watch a soccer game and being just blown away at how great it looked - it felt like the players were in the room with us.  We watched World Cup action for a few days, and I started to get into it.  The loud, crazy crowds and the intensity of the tournament helped.  However it happened, by the end of the week, I was a soccer fan.

The game that really solidified the whole thing for me what Brazil vs. France in the quarterfinals.  I don’t know if you guys remember it, but France won 1-0.  This was the game where Henry had a great goal off a perfect Zidane pass.  Just an amazing game all around: in addition to Henry and Zidane, Ribery and a few other guys played their hearts out.  Since I considered Brazil to be the biggest, baddest guys in the world of soccer, it was cool to see them get bounced, and France became my adopted team for the rest of the tournament.

So I watched every minute of France’s run from the quarterfinals on - that Brazil game, then vs. Portugal, then the final vs. Italy (the Zidane/Materazzi game).  And for some reason, the one player who I thought was just the coolest mother-fucker of them all was Willy Sagnol.  I can’t explain it.  You know how sometimes you discover something new, and you pick a certain part of it that you immediately go crazy about?  Well, soccer was the something new, and Willy Sagnol was the part I went crazy about.  I have no idea why.  I know it’s weird.  But I became a huge Willy Sagnol fan, practically overnight.

After the World Cup was over, I resolved to get into soccer more seriously for the upcoming club season.  Imagine my joy when I looked up Willy Sagnol and found out that he played for one of the few clubs that I already knew about and sort-of liked.  From that day on, I was an FC Bayern fan.

If it wasn't for him, I'd probably still be asleep

If it wasn't for him, I'd probably still be asleep

There were more stages that came later - the addition of Ribery, watching a 2009 Champions League match in Prague with a bunch of Germans, the comeback wins vs. Fiorentina and Manchester United last year - but we’re up to 1,100 words and this is starting to get a little self-indulgent.  So I’ll turn the floor over to you guys: is there a particular match/season/moment when you became a dedicated Bayern fan?  Have all of you been watching the club for longer than me?  Is there a special reason you were drawn to Bayern, or did you just like watching soccer and they became your favorite team “just because?”  You can tell us as much or as little as you want, I just thought it would be cool if we all knew were our fellow travelers were coming from.

Also, my Uncle has since moved to a different city, and I myself am not wealthy and don’t have anything worth stealing.  So if you were thinking of tracking down where I work, using that to figure out where he lives, and robbing his house, you can forget about it.  Thanks for reading.

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(UPDATED - Saturday evening)

Some of these stories are just incredibly cool.  A lot of the readers have been Bayern fans for longer than I, so that is very humbling and reminds me that there is a great depth of institutional football knowledge here. But really, this has just been a great experience and I want to thank everyone for sharing a bit of themselves.

A few of the better ones that have come through by e-mail:

Ellegiers says:

"i am 26 years old and a Belgian. I have been watching soccer from around my 18th. I used to go to a friend and watch the CL with him and his brother and some other friends. I went there because i liked the guys and the evenings, not the soccer.

But for some reason i like underdogs, so i cheered for the underdogs and the teams nobody liked ( aka every German team). In those days it was all Bayern and Werder. So after a few years i thought i had to have my "own team". I chose the strongest of the German teams, it was pointles to choose a team that you cannot root for every year. Since then my love for Bayern (and soccer) has grown significantly. I try to watch every game they play, i think i see about 70% of there games.  Its perhaps strange but i have always liked world and europa cups, after they ended so did my interest in soccer for the next 2 years.

Other than that i am a massive Sagnol fan,besides him i liked Makaay, Kahn, Schweinsteiger, Lahm, DVB, Ribery, Muller, Scholl, Toni, Klose, Ballack, ... I for no obvious reason hate Man U, Juventus (Serie A in general ), Mouriniho and Barca just because they are to good.

I really like the articles you write so i would say keep up the good work."

Aravind says:

"i am a fan of bayern since i was 6.(now am 18).

I became a fan of Bayern even before i watched them play. Lothar Mathaus was my first hero,bt the truth is that iv'nt even watched him playing.

It ws the 99 cl that forced me to support Fcb. After the japan wc of 02  i became addicted to this team due to Kahn and Ballack. But i was not able to watch the bundes leaga as its telecasting here in India is done by a channel that is not that familiar in our part of the country.Till last season I managed to watch only bayern cl games. But now we have chance of watching bayerns matches on every wednesday through another channel which telecast fcb's matches.

Even if I wont be able to watch each of their game,I've to love this team. I dont know what is the reason.but am sure this club is my soul,its my dream to watch a game live from  Allians Arena and to play for them(please dont laugh at me,its only a dream)  i should say that I dont have much friends here who love bayern,every one loves either english sides or teams from la leaga.

Im sure it will change if the telecasting of bundes leaga would be done by some popular firms...

Mia san Mia"

Ruth says:

"I lived in England for a Semester of law school the year that Arsenal beat Liverpool to win the Prem...1989 and got hooked on the Gunners. As a Canadian the English were all too happy to school me in the language of the game. Many pubs and pints later I became quite knowledgeable and able to hold my own in any Footy related chat. Pretty good for a girl! I followed on and off when I came back to Canada. (Luckily my grades didn't suffer from my new-found obsession over there) Several years later fast forward to taking a trip to Germany (the Fatherland, literally...my Dad was born there in Bavaria) with my folks. Can't speak a word of German at the time and therefore watched no TV but for CNN(which drove me mental). But AHA! You don't need to speak German to watch Fussball! So my love was re-ignited!

My cousins in Munich are crazy Bayern fans so it was the natural place to hang my association. I also kinda liked Leverkusen though. Then something magical happened. I was at a hotel in Freiburg the following year and discovered that Die Mannschaft FCB was staying there. And I ran face first into Michael Ballack in the hallway while going to check out the indoor pool!

I love the Beautiful Game and without a doubt he is a beautiful specimen on and off the pitch! I fumbled for words, mouth agape, eyed widened and I said "Sorry", he bent down and picked up my towel and pool bag that I dropped and apologized for bumping into ME. In English.

Lever-Who-sen?

This past year I went to Mecca, the Allianz, and did the tour finally. My fave has switched to Super-Mario now, after MB went off to Chelsea(I am still a 'Goonner') and I faithfully text with my cousins while they sit in their Seasons-seats at Allianz, sharing the ambience and celebrating the goals with a Paulaner in hand!"

And finally, In Jae says:

"Until 2006, the only club i barely know the name was Real Madrid or Manchester United. Those name was mainly heard by one of my friend, who started to support Madrid since Galactico I. He listed out the names of star players like Ronaldo (Brazil one), Beckham and other else which had already faded off from my memories. I heard Manchester Utd quite often from the Korean media, as Park, who happened to be the first korean player to enter EPL, was playing for the manchester.

During the 2006 World Cup, after early elimination of South Korea, I happened to catch several matches of Germany, without knowing reason, I had supported Germany for the remaining World Cup, and several players had dragged my attention. The first was Lucas Podolski, who had won the Young Player award in that World Cup. and the another was Bastian, who made a great performance in the match against Portugal. I had known about Kahn, as the winner of golden ball in 2002 world cup and the best goalkeeper in the world.

Even after having three favourite players, I did not know the existence of Bayern until then...  My first interaction with Bayern came very coincedentally.

One day, I happened to save up money to get a red shirt that I would be using for occasional football match with my school mates (I did played football, but that doesn't necessarily mean i know club football or other). Until then, I wanted to get a shirt from Manchester United shop, that i spotted few months ago in the city. Actually I wasnt a supporter of manchester united or other, I wanted the ManU shirt for the sole reason, 'emblem looked quite nice'. Even until i decided to get the man u jersey, the only player i know was Park, the national football idol of south korea.

What I found out after reaching there (after 1 hour of gruelling bus ride,) was that the shop had vaporised. The Man U shop that I had seen few month ago, simply disappeared. Just to make my effort useful, I went in to Adidas store nearby to find the Man U jersey. (Till then, I did not know it was NIKE...) I asked for the Man U jersey, and attendant kindly(with some smirk on his face) informed me that Man U store that existed nearby moved out to the other part of the city.

So i now asked for red shirt. The attendant, thinking that i was a football fan, brought me to the football jersey corner, introduced me Liverpool jersey ,Bayern, and few other that i cannot recall now. At first glance, Liverpool's emblem looked quite fancy, while Bayern's one looked very common. White and blue in circle... My mind swing to the Liverpool's kit. However, somehow, the god destined my life to become a bayern fan. At that moment, the only long sleeved shirt was available for liverpool, and it was summer in Korea. Furthermore, I felt some kind of pressure from the attendant, and i would feel sorry if  i just step out from there without buying any stuff. I got the Bayern Jersey quite reluctantly.

When I wore it for the football match with my school mates, they were bit stunned, It was such a rare team to support in Korea. That day onwards, my friends recognised me as a Bayern Fan. My friends kinda bombarded questions with Bayern's recent performance,(which happen to be 4th in league) and just to answer that, I slowly get to know the team Bayern Munchen. One of the most surprising thing was, all the favourite players (podolski, bastian , kahn) was playin for the Bayern!

Since that day onwards, I had become 'real' bayern fan from 'pseudo' bayern fan."

If any more good ones come over through email, I will post them as well.  By tomorrow night or Monday, we'll be back to the transfer market / pre-season grind.